UMD Uncovering Oldest U.S. Community of Free Blacks?

UMD Uncovering Oldest U.S. Community of Free Blacks? | UMD Right Now :: University of Maryland.

I hope everyone in the area can come and be a part of the archaeological dig on The Hill here in Easton. See the link above for more information.

“Uncovering Our Past” — An Update on The Hill

For those interested in learning the latest on the explorations and research into The Hill neighborhood in Easton, please plan to join us on Saturday, November 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We believe “The Hill” is the oldest African American neighborhood in the country, predating what is thought of as the oldest documented African American neighborhood: “Treme” located in New Orleans, LA.

“Uncovering Our Past” will take place at the Talbot County Senior Center (400 Brookletts Place) and will provide a debriefing on the on-going documentation efforts regarding “The Hill” and a discussion on the role of archeology and historic preservation. Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning and Dr. Mark Leone of the University of Maryland College Park Department of Anthropology will highlight a panel discussion followed by a open session for sharing and collecting stories of the neighborhood history. Light refreshments will be available.

For more information on this project, please see:

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

Archaeological Dig on The Hill in Easton

Update from The Hill

Help Preserve an Historic African American Neighborhood: The Hill in Easton, Md.

My First Jamboree — Part 1

I just returned today from four jam-packed fun days at the Southern California Genealogical Society 2012 Jamboree. Why would a Marylander with no ancestors from Cali trek so far? Because she was jealous of all her friends who’ve attended and touted the event in years past. Plus, I’d never been to California before.

I arrived mid-morning on Thursday after a very early departure from Baltimore and tried to nap in my hotel room before hanging with my genealogy pals in the afternoon/evening. I say ‘tried’ because I wasn’t very successful due to some ambient noise in the hallway. Turns out we were sharing the hotel not only with this year’s American Idol finalists, who are on tour, but hopeful singers auditioning for The Voice 3. And they practiced. A lot. In their rooms. At all hours. Not all of them very well.

But I digress. I met up with several fellow genealogy bloggers in the lobby and bar that evening, include Denise Levinick, Amy Coffin, Thomas MacEntee, Caroline Pointer, Kimmy VonAspern, Randy Seaver, Lisa Alzo and Kathryn Doyle (hope I’m not forgetting anyone!). Kathryn and Denise had actually served as my welcoming committee as I first arrived at the hotel. We had a great time catching up, but I made an early night of it due to my lack of sleep.

I spent the next morning hanging out with a subset of the above group in the lobby of the hotel after having breakfast with Elyse Doerflinger. I also introduced myself to genealogy megastar Megan Smolenyak. I was ecstatic to run into Tonia Kendrick, whom I hadn’t seen since FGS in Knoxville in 2010. We had lunch that day and then Denise Levenick and I went to the conference registration desk to pick up our nametags and check out the exhibit hall before the first sessions of the conference. At some point during that day, I ran into Kim Cotton (or was it the day before?). I also finally got to meet Gini Webb. It’s so fun meeting folks I’ve only been in contact with over the web.

One of my favorite parts of the conference is networking with fellow genealogists, but there were sessions to attend. On Friday, I attended sessions on a genealogy case study and the impact of the Internet on genealogy. I skipped the last session of the day and instead was found in the bar with Lisa Alzo, Amy Coffin, Thomas MacEntee and many others who wandered in and out.

Carla Laemmle, on the right.

That night was one of the highlights of the conference — the Hollywood Gala. We were encouraged to dress to the nines, and many did. There were movie stars from days gone by on hand, including Carla Laemmle, who was in the cast of 1931’s Dracula. We had a lot of fun posing for a photographer while we gabbed and sipped sparkling cider.

More to come in a future post!

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation -- I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance's sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the "Buffalo Soldier's House." The house passed to Temperance's son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!

The Hill Project Presents: “A Stroll Down Memory Lane”

I hope those in the Easton area can attend this event on March 31 (click on the poster for a larger view):

I’m really looking forward to learning more about this area from the residents and to participate in the walking tour. I’ll post a follow-up blog post when the event is over!

Learn more about The Hill here and/or visit the Historic Easton web site.

RootsTech 2012: My View

It’s been almost a week since the end of the RootsTech 2012 conference and I’m finally able to get some thoughts down about my overall experience there. I’m adding my voice to dozens of other bloggers who also attended. I’m not going to try and cover the whole thing — just the highlights and a few low-lights for me.

Highlights

One of my favorite things about these events is meeting the other attendees and this year did not disappoint. I finally got to meet several genealogy bloggers that up until last week I’d only known online and we all got along swimmingly. If nothing else, I think any conference can be a success from an attendee perspective if you get out there and meet the other attendees and network. I especially enjoyed getting to know my roommate, Footnote Maven. We had a really great time and looked out for each other throughout the conference (we both were hobbling around on injured feet).

Kudos to the conference organizers for scoring free breakfasts at the Radisson for attendees staying there. What a money-saver! I don’t know if that’s a standard part of the room package that the Radisson offers to event planners, but this attendee was thankful and used almost every one of my free breakfast coupons. The breakfast buffet was a great opportunity to run into other genealogists too. I’ve never had as much face time with Thomas MacEntee as the two mornings I was up early enough to find him at breakfast. What a treat!

The RootsTech app for smartphones and other handheld devices was a huge help to me — it was great to have the schedule at a glance (both the overall schedule and my own personalized session schedule). The alerts sent through the app weren’t all that effective — I usually noticed them too late and I think whoever was adding them was doing so as an afterthought rather than as planned missives. Better luck next time on that front. I was using this app on my iPad and it worked great, but I fear I would have found it to be too small on my phone, so I didn’t download it to that too. I’m also not sure there was a way to have your information from the app on one device automatically update on another.

I attended one or two really, really stellar sessions. Both covered advanced photography topics. Most of the other sessions were useful and educational, but there were one or two stinkers. Now we’re starting to get into the low-lights section, so let’s introduce that header, shall we?

Low Lights

Back to the sessions. There were a few problems here that started even before we all arrived in Salt Lake City. The session schedule for this conference was announced very, very late. I made a cursory schedule of sessions that I thought I might like to attend a few days before the conference and then shifted things around as the syllabi became available.

I think the schedule and the syllabi need to be posted much sooner and I think it would be a good idea for the conference planners to try and track what sessions folks intend to attend (the app is perfect for this!) and plan their spaces accordingly. Some of the sessions I attended were more than standing-room only. The rooms were uncomfortably packed and hot.

There were nearly 1,000 more attendees at RootsTech this year than last year and yet it felt like they were trying to cram us into the same number of sessions and spaces. Not physically possible. Shortly after arriving in SLC for RootsTech, I learned we were sharing the Salt Palace with another event — I think the conference organizers need to invest in more space next year!

On the content side of things, some of the presenters raced through too much material for their 60-minute slots or covered material that didn’t really align with their session descriptions. I’m going to join the chorus of attendees asking for more advanced session topics next year.

Another low light for me was the vendor area. It was expanded from last year and it was a little bit easier to navigate around (at least after the first day; more on that later). I’m not usually the type to want to learn about new software at a vendor booth — I’d rather visit their web site or download a trial version. If I’m going to visit a vendor booth, there’s gotta be something hands-on for me to play with that I can’t try out from my living room couch. Several other attendees bemoaned the lack of actual gadgets available at the conference. With the exception of Flip Pal, I don’t think there were any gadgeteers there. At a tech conference. Lame.

Back to navigating the vendor area on the first day of the conference. There were a few booths I actually did want to visit, but I couldn’t reach them. Why? Because they were mobbed by other attendees. But these weren’t attendees actually interested in the services those booths were promoting. They were just trying to get their passports stamped by enough vendors to win a t-shirt. Again? Lame. Nix the whole passport thing — if 2 percent of the folks getting those passports stamped had a valuable conversation with any vendor, I’ll be surprised.

My other complaints have more to do with the Salt Palace — they need to beef up their wireless signal availability. Also? Please get some better food options.

Am I likely to attend RootsTech next year? Probably. The registration fee has been reasonable. It’s right next to the Family History Library, which on its own is worth the trip. So long as I can keep networking with my fellow genealogists, I’ll be willing to fly out there. But I do want to see a few things improve for next year. Here’s hoping the organizers are listening.

Stay tuned for one more RootsTech post (my greatest hits — facts, tips and tricks that wowed me).

RootsTech 2012, Day 3

I ate nachos way too late last night and hence was awoken by very strange dreams early this morning. But the early bird gets to breakfast with Thomas MacEntee, and I also got to meet Chris Whitten of WikiTree. Caroline Pointer joined us as well.

I was able to attend this morning’s keynote talk by the Ancestry guys led by CEO Tom Sullivan, and they showed some really promising demos of things to come from that site.

Next, I attended Is Your Ancestor Hiding in This Picture? by Patricia Moseley Van Skeik of the Public Library of Cincinnati. This was a follow-up to her talk last year about the 1848 panoramic daguerreotype of Cincinnati. This year, she showed the results of their research into the various buildings and businesses pictured. Really good, inspiring stuff for this photo researcher.

Then, I attended the fold3 overview and learned a lot of new ways to use this service. Their Training Center features videos by Laura Prescott (she also wrote a lot of the collection descriptions).

Check out fold3’s listing of all resources, which shows the completion status of digitization for each collection. Go to the information page about a collection to search or browse just that collection.

You can browse by conflict on the homepage, which is very handy for eliminating irrelevant records.

When you are in a set of search results, use the Watch feature to send you alerts when possible new records are found for a particular person at a particular place.

You can check out which other users are adding information to pages for particular people or annotating particular records and connect with them. You also can upload an image about a person that’s related to other docs and/or their page on fold3. Anything that users upload is free for others to view.

One really nice feature of fold3 is the ability to create memorial pages. Users can create pages for places and organizations, not just individuals.

I had a nice lunch with Linda McCauley, Jenna Mills and Caroline Pointer at Blue Lemon before skipping the last session to get in some last minutes of research at the FHL. That was not going so well, so now I’m back at the hotel, watching my Terps. Will be heading out later with a LibraryThing friend who lives nearby.

Stay tuned for more posts from me including my best-of tips that I learned at RootsTech and my overall thoughts on this year’s event. Something for me to work on during the long flight tomorrow.

RootsTech 2012, Day 2

After breakfast with Footnote Maven, Elyse Doerflinger and Denise Levenick, I spent the morning at the Family History Library. After lunch, I finally attended a couple of sessions at the Salt Palace.

The first was Genealogical Uses for QR Codes, by Thomas MacEntee. I have used QR codes on things like posters at work, but was interested to hear more ideas about their applications in genealogy.

The session was recorded, so I assume it will be available later. This was Thomas’ first time giving this presentation.

QR stands for Quick Response. QR codes should link to robust content such as video, census pages and family trees.

One application that is just getting off the ground is QRmemorials.com, which provides QR codes that can be applied to gravestones and link to online memorials of the deceased.

Among the genealogical applications for this technology:

  • Store source citations
  • Turn your biz card into a QR code
  • Store your surname list, family trees, research databases, citations
  • Include photo info on photo sleeve

Some things to keep in kind:

  • Give the QR code image a name that makes sense so you can find it more easily later
  • The more info, the bigger the image. It’s best to host your information online and then make a link from the code
  • Be careful what information you make available. Do you want anyone to be available to see it?

The next session of the day for me was Google Toolbar and Genealogy, by David Barney of Google. I was already aware of a lot of the items he covered, but here is what was new to me:

- Put ~genealogy at the end of your search string for more genealogy-related search results (this tip courtesy of Dan Lynch). The tilda tells Google to include words like genealogy in the results.

- Add a date range like so: 1827.. 1888 (also courtesy of Lynch. I really need to get his book)

- When searching images:
In the search bar, click on the camera and upload an image to find similar images

- The Chrome browser has a screen capture extension that allows you to edit the capture with tools like blur, drawing and text.

Now, I’m resting up in preparation for a wild night at the Family History Library: Geneabloggers Radio, Who Do You Think You Are?, and research!

RootsTech 2012: Day 1

Day One of RootsTech got off to a great start with breakfast with Denise Levenick, Footnote Maven and Jenna Mills.

The opening session included reps from Google speaking on new search capabilities for genealogy that got everyone excited. I’m sure my fellow bloggers will cover this in more detail.

The first topical session I attended was on Mining Newspaper Archives, presented by Tara Carlisle and Kathleen Murray. You can view their slides at goo.gl/6rt7D

The session started out with a whiplash-inducing overview of metadata and the digitization process.

Interesting takeaway: in the 1990s, standards for microfilm were finally adopted; anything before that probably won’t be very good.

They focused on Chronicling America (newspaper directory, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), which has lots of information about a publication. Especially helpful among the data is who is holding each publication.

The Portal to Texas History also was covered. This free resource allows you to search or browse by county. Use the calendar view to choose a specific date. I can’t wait to use this to search for my Bexar County ancestors.

In the session on Using Advanced Photographic Techniques to Recover Content from Damaged Documents, presenter Jack Reese gave a fascinating look at how to salvage information from burned or water-damaged documents. It was great to see that there is hope.

The talk started with a brief overview of NARA 1571, guidelines for paper documents i.e. maximum temperature of 65 degrees F and 35-45% humidity. Keep documents at least 3 inches off ground and not below grade. Storing documents in a room with vinyl tiles or carpet subjects them to off-gassing and fumes, which is a no-no. Likewise, unpainted concrete walls create dust.

By working with the non-visible spectrum of light, researchers can view documents in a way not possible with the naked eye, or even most cameras and scanners. You can use a filter on a camera to show reactions that are not in the normal spectrum in order to see missing text. For instance, shooting fluorescent light onto a document can cause faded ink to emit photons that can be seen using a special camera and lens. Astronomy-related cams will have the right type of filter for doing this kind of work.

The speaker also discussed forensic document analysis, like that on CSI, but this has its drawbacks. The devices are small and really don’t accommodate large documents, resolution is limited and it is expensive.

So, he and his colleagues set out to build their own gadget, a document-restoration camera that is a combo of a specialty camera, lens, filters, and lighting.

He showed us examples of inspecting documents using infrared and UV examination. It was very cool to see how the writing is revealed!

This type of work requires an investment in equipment and some learning, but this can be done at home.

The final session I attended today was on The Power of Evernote. I have used Evernote before to keep track of citations, but that’s about it. Tevya Washburn and Kurt Francom taught us how to create Notebooks, tags, and use the browser extension to clip from web.

One of the great advantages of using Evernote is that if you clip from a page, it will be available to you even if the page goes away online. Text is searchable within Evernote, even if it’s in a clip.

The interface is slightly different for tablet users, but Jenna Mills of SeekingSurnames said you can still email clips from your iPad to your Evernote account.

The speakers suggested journaling in Evernote and tagging your daily posts for a summarized history by individual, for instance.

One of the best tie-in apps they discussed was If This Then That, which can even pull in Gmail emails and blog posts.

Go to fiddlerstudios.com/evernote for the presentation, links and more.

That’s it for now! Time for dinner and a comedy show!